The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was a step in the right direction, but we need to keep fighting for a better future.
By Melanie Moyer
The nation took its first deep breath in four years on November 7th. After the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQ+ community, followers of Islam, women, other marginalized groups, and allies lived in fear of Trump and his administration stripping them of rights that had been fought hard for in years prior. Some of these fears came true: the Trump administration implemented a Muslim travel ban, children were separated from their parents and held in cages at the border, someone who had been accused of sexual misconduct was appointed to the most powerful court in the country, an executive order was signed that denied student’s right to use the bathroom of their choice. Police officers who have killed Black Americans still systematically go without punishment, yet the Trump administration has placed itself in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. It goes without saying that this presidency has reinforced notions of white male supremacy, and it can be taken one step further in saying that the white and wealthy elite have been the only people who have not been targeted by the administration.
This administration not being reelected was thus a cause for celebration for anyone who cares about the rights of marginalized groups. Further, by electing a president that has plans to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the US, there will be an indisputable improvement in the country’s caseload. Joe Biden’s campaign has made it apparent that the economy will no longer be valued over the lives of Americans. Perhaps all of America will be relieved to have an administration that will take the proper steps towards reopening. The Climate Crisis will also be given the appropriate attention needed before we start to see the early repercussions of our inattentiveness. Just months after the Trump administration left the Paris Agreement Global Climate Pact, Biden’s campaign has announced that it will rejoin. Thus, anyone who does not want to live to see an uninhabitable planet should be relieved.
The historical significance of Kamala Harris’ election should also be recognized as a cause for great celebration. Harris is the first woman, the first person of color, the first biracial person, the first biracial woman of color to be elected as the Vice President. In short, she is the first person who is not a white male to be the Vice President-Elect. Considering our country’s history of racism and sexism, this is a huge accomplishment in the country’s progress towards equity, for she represents our country’s growth in recovering from its detestable past of oppression.
Beyond this, her election is specifically significant for young, BIPOC girls. Harris’ position shows these young girls that despite the cultural pressures telling them they cannot be whatever they want in society, BIPOC young women have the capability to hold a position traditionally held by white men. As a powerful woman who is used to being ‘the first’ woman and BIPOC in the positions she holds, she is a role model that has not been available to young women before. However, Harris reminds us that while she “may be the first, [she] won’t be the last.” We still have a long road ahead of us toward reaching utter equity.
Despite all the successes and firsts of this historical election, there are several items that need to be addressed. First of all, we need to talk about the number of white people who voted for Donald Trump. According to The New York Times, 58% of white people voted for Trump. More specifically, 61% of white men and 55% of white women voted for Trump. Every other category leaned substantially towards Biden, with 90% of Black women voting for Biden. With these numbers in mind, we must address allyship and the role of white people right now.
Speaking as a white woman, it is neither our role to decide whether or not BIPOC experience systematic racism nor how it should be combatted. Our job right now is to listen to BIPOC and elevate their voices, to educate ourselves about systematic racism and how we can be better allies, to have those difficult conversations with other white people about these issues, and to put our votes and decisions where our words are. An overwhelming amount of white people showed up when there was social capital in posting a ‘black square’ in ‘solidarity’ with the Black Lives Matter movement. That same amount was not reached in the polls. This is not our victory to celebrate, instead, we are in a position to be thankful for those, specifically Black women, who changed the course of this election.
Furthermore, we need to recognize that while this election has put us back on track to attaining the social equity initiatives we have been working towards, problems that existed before and those created by the Trump administration remain. The people need to push the Biden-Harris administration to target institutionalized racism, beginning with police brutality against Black men but ending only when true equity is realized (which, spoiler alert, will take a lot of time and work). That being said, we need to bring the same energy that was brought to the election to our demands for reform. The election is not the solution and Joe Biden is not our savior.
Speaking of Biden, though a united party was needed to ensure that Donald Trump was not reelected, Biden should not be an idealized figure. He is not our sweet uncle as some have been saying, and he was not a lot of people’s first choice. He has an unsettling past of treating his female employees inappropriately and participated in the excessive bombing of countries in the Middle East during the Obama administration. Through the maneuvering of the DNC, Biden was the candidate voters with liberal leanings were told they needed to settle for. We cannot forget that the voting process should give people the chance to choose their preferred candidate, not give us a choice between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, even though this election made history in electing the first woman of color to be the Vice President, Biden is still a straight white man. Thus, his election was significant because he beat Trump, but his past should not be forgotten.
In this way, we can recognize that this election was significant in pushing for the rights of marginalized Americans. We should not discount the extreme accomplishments of this election, including a record amount of voter turnout, due in part to the work of Stacey Abrams in Georgia. However, we need to move forward with a sense of doing better for our country, for our work is far from over.
Melanie Moyer '22,